How to Succeed at Business: Vision, Courage and Flexibility
By Victoria Pynchon - Forbes, posted 03/27/11
In response to a reader's comment about education, Black posted:
Interesting that you reference education. In our book I make the comment, "The education system is one of my pet peeves. I think it is a political nightmare." It was a passing remark – never intended to become a theme or a cause.
In class and at speaking engagements we have used our "story" to demonstrate the importance of long-term planning – of having a road map, but realizing there are many different roads to the same destination and that you have to be prepared for detours and/or road blocks but they do not mean you cannot reach your destination. And maybe even find a better way …
As Vickie noted in a former column, our book was intended to establish the Red & Black "brand" which includes an assortment of entertainment applications (books, movies, television) that had been developed thinking that would be the direction the company would go. However, our detour, and now involvement, down the road of financial literacy happened because there is a need. Not because we created a market. We are finding adults, in particular women, are often intimidated by financial topics. And as my sister experienced, ignorance is not bliss – ignorance is expensive. Not only in terms of money, but in terms of values and priorities that get misplaced or forgotten.
Then, as my sister realized, since she was not comfortable with financial matters that meant she would not be able to educate her children. This was probably one of the driving forces behind her desire to take control of her finances. She wanted (as did I) her daughters to be better prepared to face their financial future than she had been.
But what about all those children whose parents might not be capable of explaining financial matters? (Unfortunately, we are finding this problem exists across all socio-economic levels.) If the schools are not teaching it, how will they learn? As Vickie pointed out, Texas has mandated financial literacy starting with the 2011-12 school year. However, they do not provide the funding for materials. The twelve required topics are more than a full semester course, yet they are supposed to be incorporated into other classes. The topics include balancing a checkbook, which is math, whereas I believe understanding whether an expenditure is a smart use of your money is financial literacy. And nowhere does the program address how values and priorities should drive your financial decisions. If you layer on top the recent State budget cuts, I feel like I should be teaching our program to the legislators.
So what can one or two people do to make a difference when it comes to education? Two idealistic and frustrated teachers, Mike Feinberg and David Levin, broke away from the public school system and started KIPP. Their "Knowledge is Power Program" has grown to a network of 99 free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools throughout the United States. And proves two people CAN make a difference. Their words and actions touch other people, who touch other people and soon you have a movement that can make a difference.
Although I can be arrogant, I am not arrogant enough to compare Red and I with those two amazing men. However, Vickie stated above that our book had a potential market of 155 million women. Yes, of course it would be nice to sell 155 million copies of our book (I would be thrilled with 155 thousand copies) but imagine the impact of 155 million VOTERS if they demanded financial literacy be given the highest priority in our schools.